It is back to business for the Vegas Golden Knights, who will take on the Minnesota Wild in the first half of a back-to-back with the Trade Deadline now in the rearview mirror.
On what was a quiet day overall in the National Hockey League, with most of the big trade chips going off the board in the days prior, the Golden Knights proved to be sellers.
In what was their only deal of the day, Vegas sent forward Evgenii Dadonov to the Anaheim Ducks, with Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reporting that Anaheim also got a second-round pick in 2023 or 2024 with defenseman John Moore and Ryan Kesler’s contract going back to the Golden Knights.
In what was a clear cap-clearing move, the Golden Knights lost a forward who had scored five goals in his last seven games, but they gained some breathing room under the salary cap as they await the return of their star players.
Forward Max Pacioretty won’t be on this two-game road trip, as he was seen watching his kids practice at City National Arena earlier today. The Knights will have to rely on the next-man-up mentality yet again.
⚔️ Paul Cotter, Zack Hayes, Daniil Miromanov and Jonas Rondbjerg have been recalled from @HSKnights #VegasBorn | #HomeMeansHenderson pic.twitter.com/fM5pANoCkz— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) March 21, 2022
The good news is that after going 0-5-0 on a road trip from hell, Vegas kept its postseason hopes alive after beating both the Florida Panthers and Los Angeles Kings.
Beating the Kings on Saturday was particularly important when it comes to the standings in the Pacific Division, but every game from here on out will be huge, and there will be little margin for error.
It starts tonight against the Wild at Xcel Energy Center; the Golden Knights won both of the previous meetings this season.
The Wild had themselves a great Trade Deadline.
Loading up for what they hope will be a deep postseason run, Minnesota went all in after sending a conditional 2022 first-round selection to the Chicago Blackhawks for the ultimate Golden Knight, Marc-Andre Fleury.
While he will only serve as Cam Talbot’s backup tonight, his presence will no doubt give his new teammates a boost in what is a must-win game for both teams.
Vegas remains the second wildcard seed in the Western Conference standings heading into tonight’s tilt, although the Dallas Stars are still a point behind with three games in hand. It is also important to note that the Stars, clearly knowing they are still very much in the race, opted to keep defenseman John Klingberg past the deadline.
Should the Knights beat Minnesota tonight and the Winnipeg Jets tomorrow night, that would keep the pressure firmly on the Nashville Predators, who are currently in possession of the first wildcard spot and who visit T-Mobile Arena on Thursday.
Put simply, tonight’s game is the start of what is a huge week for the Golden Knights. A week that could play a significant role in whether or not they maintain their perfect record of being a playoff team.
Given that he made a combined total of 71 saves in the wins over the Panthers and Kings, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Logan Thompson gets the start again tonight in the first half of the back-to-back.
It says something about Thompson’s sudden and rapid ascension that the front office opted not to make a move for a goaltender at the Trade Deadline, and they seem content to ride or die with the rookie.
Thompson is now 3-2-0 on the year with a 2.98 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage, and we will see how he responds to being handed the majority of the workload.
Minnesota got significantly better between the pipes today by trading for the former face of the Vegas franchise.
But it will be Talbot in net tonight, and he is hardly a scrub. While he’s cooled off somewhat after earning All-Star recognition for the first time in his career, he’s still 24-12-1 on the year with a 2.92 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage.
Vegas Golden Knights
William Karlsson - Jack Eichel - Jonathan Marchessault
William Carrier - Chandler Stephenson - Nicolas Roy
Mattias Janmark - Nolan Patrick - Jake Leschyshyn
Michael Amadio - Brett Howden - Keegan Kolesar
Alex Pietrangelo - Dylan Coghlan
Shea Theodore - Zach Whitecloud
Brayden Pachal - Daniil Miromanov
Kirill Kaprizov - Ryan Hartman - Mats Zuccarello
Jordan Greenway - Joel Eriksson Ek - Marcus Foligno
Kevin Fiala - Frederick Gaudreau - Matt Boldy
Brandon Duhaime - Tyson Jost - Nicolas Deslauriers
Jon Merrill - Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin - Matt Dumba
Alex Goligoski - Dmitry Kulikov